Tucked down a tiny alley moments from the hustle and bustle of the King’s Road lies a little-known green oasis. Chelsea Physic Garden has been on my London to-do list for ages, and a visit from a friend with a passion for plants made it the perfect choice for a sunny summer afternoon last weekend. Or so we hoped…
The weather of course had other plans and moments after our tour began the heavens opened and we were drenched! We were shown around by a fascinating lady who battled on through the deluge regardless, explaining the history of the garden and showing us some of the 5,000 medicinal, edible and useful plants there. And when we’d just about given up hope… ta dah!
The sun came out, the skies cleared and the plants looked even lovelier with raindrops glistening on their leaves and petals.
Chelsea Physic Garden is London’s oldest botanic garden and has been on the same site since 1673 when it was founded by apothecaries to grow ingredients, develop new remedies and train apprentices to identify plants and study their properties.
The garden is surrounded by a beautiful old wall and so it’s always a degree or two warmer than the city beyond, meaning tender plants from all over the world can be grown, including the world’s most northerly outdoor grapefruit tree! There are lots of lovely wooden greenhouses too, where we spied this cute little fledgeling amongst the succulents.
Visitors are welcome to visit Chelsea Physic Garden between April and October but beware – opening days and times are quite random so check before you set out! The £9 entrance fee includes a guided tour which I’d definitely recommend. I usually prefer to find my own way rather than traipsing about in a group but we learned loads from our lovely guide… did you know that sunflowers are used to soak up radiation after nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima?
Whether you’re interested in botany or just want to see some pretty flowers, you should definitely check this tranquil spot out for yourself. If the British summer improves you may even get to see it in the sunshine. Or if not, you can always seek shelter in the café – I can confirm the cakes are to die for!